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13 - 16 October
5. La Selva Lodge
so, at last, to the Lodge! "La Selva" means "the
jungle", so the name is a bit contorted. And that's the only
criticism I have to make. It's everything their literature claims!
arrived in the early afternoon, walked along the board walk for
about 15 minutes (luggage carried for us), and then got into the
small paddle canoe for the 15 minute trip across Garzacocha ("heron
lake") to the Lodge itself.
separation of the Lodge from the river adds to its tranquillity.
The Rio Napo is fairly heavily trafficked with motorised boats,
and we were sufficiently far away not to hear the sounds. Sasha
Lodge, a few km upstream, seems to be closer to the river. But I
won't pass judgement on them for that.
a welcome cocktail and snack and getting fitted out with rubber
boots, we then unpacked and returned to the bar to meet our guide
and go out on our first trip (we first had time to wander a few
hundred metres down a trail past the butterfly farm, and didn't
recognise any of the few birds we heard!).
were extremely fortunate to have the exclusive service of La Selva's
top bird guide, a Quichua Indian, José Hualinga.
had, prior to our visit, exchanged many emails with La Selva's delightful
and enthusiastic 'Sales Representative', Juana Marañón.
Her job description is a little misleading, because she basically
handles most of the office side for La Selva's Quito office. More
than that, we were fortunate enough to meet her at La Selva (and
exchanged big hugs!), because her multilingual talents meant that
she was acting as a translator for a 30-strong party of retired
French school teachers. It was Juana, who, learning that our prime
interest was birds (she insisted that we describe ourselves as 'hard
core birders'!) who managed to get José Hualinga allocated
exclusively to us during our stay - and I had expected that we would
be escorted round in a group of 6 - 8 people. Thanks, Juana! And
another hug for you!
has guided some of the leading birding visitors to La Selva, and
we must have seemed to him (well, we are!) very inexperienced compared
with some of the people he has guided. But José proved to
be very patient with us, doing his best to get us onto the birds
that he found with his experience and very sharp eyes.
was also very professional in his approach and his command of the
English language includes all the English bird names and appropriate
location vocabulary ("that branch, there", "through
the gap", etc). He was well equipped with a pair of 8 x 30
Swarovski bins (much lighter than my 10 x 42 Swarovski), a cassette
player (he used the tape we had "Birds of La Selva", on
whose sleeve he appears on the credits!) and the new tool of professional
bird guides, a red laser pointer, to show the dim-witted clients
on which branch the bird is sitting. This was very necessary for
us, and it works well in the dim light of the forest.
a few notes about La Selva before returning to the birds. The cabins
are comfortable, with window screens and good mosquito nets over
the beds; we had no use for our own. The food is excellent. Breakfast
is whatever time you want (we ate at 5.30 am each morning), lunch
(unless you have a boxed lunch with you, which is very good), is
at 1 pm, and dinner is at 7 pm. The bar is well-stocked, the wine
reasonably priced, and all the staff are extremely helpful and friendly
(hats off to the manager, Pedro, and the excellent barman, Pepé!).
that's enough praise for La Selva. On to the birding. As in other
parts of this diary, I'm splitting the account into habitats, rather
than days. It seems to make sense to divide it in this way:
várzea forest (seasonally flooded) forest around La
Selva, including the Lodge area, the boardwalk from the Rio Napo
to Garzacocha (walked quite a few times) and the walk to the Canopy
Tower and Mandicocha - "Water Hyacinth Lake" - done
Canopy Tower - an experience on its own, even though we only
visited it once.
lakes - Garzacocha and Mandicocha. We crossed Garzacocha (an
oxbow lake) many times, and had some specific trips around it.
We visited Mandicocha once.
terra firma forest (not seasonally flooded), to the south
of the Lodge, on the opposite side of the Rio Napo. We had two
long trips to this area.